A long- time host university of the BB&T Classic, Maryland is set to take on Notre Dame in the second game of a doubleheader at Verizon Center on Sunday, Dec. 4. The first matchup of the evening will feature George Washington University versus Virginia Commonwealth University, who is fresh off a 2011 Final Four appearance.
The Classic, which benefits the Children's Charities Foundation (CCF), raises more money for children's charities than any other sporting event in the country.
After a brief opening statement from Peter Teely, chairman of the CCF, John Feinstein, noted author, columnist, and member of the CCF board, took over the stand to introduce the coaches.
First up was D.C. native Mike Brey of Notre Dame, whose name was mentioned quite a few times last spring during the Terps' hunt for a new coach. Brey, the self-proclaimed old guy of the group, had nothing but good things to say about Turgeon when asked about the Dec. 4 matchup. Mark, I've gotten to watch up close, said Brey. We were at a tournament down in Orlando with him and then we were both in Chicago for the NCAA Tournament. I've got a lot of respect for him. This guy has been around. He's got great mentors and people he's worked for so this area's in for a real treat watching these two programs (Maryland & GWU) build over the next few years.
Turns out the two coaches have a brief history, as Turgeon explained when it was his turn to speak. I think Mike [Brey] was on the staff at Duke when I played in the Final Four, said Turgeon. Yeah, you put it on us, shot back the easygoing Brey.
It's funny that Mike grew up in Rockville as a Maryland fan because I grew up born and raised Catholic, so I was always a big Notre Dame fan, said Turgeon. So, I've always followed Notre Dame and followed Mike. I've got tremendous respect for him and his team and playing Notre Dame will be a thrill for me and my family so we'll be looking forward to that.
When asked about the matchup against Notre Dame, Turgeon noted the changes both programs had undergone. I know Mike's got a lot of changes in his roster and obviously we have a lot of changes in our roster and staff, he said. It should be a good early season test for both of us.
When the floor was eventually opened up to the press, one of the first questions asked was whether or not the BB&T Classic would ever go back to the 2-day tournament format that it originally started off in. We played it for two days for many years as you know and the big problem is that big time teams, like Notre Dame, don't want to give up two home games, explained Feinstein, who moderated the conference. Financially it's just impossible to do and it had gotten to the point trying to set up matchups with coaches, where they would say, John I'll come for one game but I just can't come for two. So we figured one really good day of basketball was better than two not so great days of basketball if we had to lower our expectations on the teams that we brought in. As you know we've been very fortunate the past few years with the teams we've been able to bring in. I mean Notre Dame and VCU aren't too bad.
Feinstein noted that a possible solution to the problem would be obtaining exemption for the games from the NCAA, but expressed the difficulties of doing so. Or the NCAA could change it's silly rules and give us an exemption, stated Feinstein. We raise more money for children's charities than any other sports event in the country and we can't get an exemption. But ESPN, which will tell you that all of their events are staged for profit, all they have to do is make one phone call and their events are exempt.
Eventually the focus shifted back to the coaches, with Turgeon garnering numerous inquiries about his team's youth and inexperience. Well we have 6 walk-ons, so we're at 15 players, he stated. We're actually trying to get the big kid through the clearinghouse, Alex. He hasn't been cleared yet. So we're at 8 scholarship players and 6 walk-ons, but the guys are working hard. From day one they've bought in and we've had good individual work sessions and good conditioning.
The media has been very vocal in their low expectations for this year's team, a team that lost 6 letter winners and 3 starters from their mediocre 19-14, 2010-2011 campaign. Yet, the criticism is serving as motivation for Turgeon. I'm looking forward to coaching, he said. Everyone is telling us how bad we're going to be so I'm looking forward to coaching.
Turgeon seemed excited for his first appearance in the classic, a tournament created in large part thanks to the support of his predecessor, Gary Williams. We're so excited to be a part of it, explained Turgeon. [Feinstein] explained what the charity is for and where the money goes and it's tremendous.
When asked about his approach to the matchup, Turgeon was quick to not jump ahead. That week of the game we'll talk about the children's charities and where all the money goes and what happens because we're in this game, he explained. They [the team] should feel good because they're a part of something like this and we'll try to educate them on that situation. We'll be excited to play a Big East school and to play in this arena and hopefully we'll have a great crowd.
Turgeon, who had to leave the press conference early to make a 4 p.m. team workout, briefly spoke about his program to a few reporters on the way out. Turgeon mentioned that past the next two years that Maryland has agreed to play in the BB&T Classic, it will be hard to fit in such a game due to the impending expansion of ACC league play to 18 games, a move that he is pretty sure will happen.
The Terps' new coach only had good things to say about his team however, noting their great work ethic and dedication to the system. Right now we have 8 scholarship guys and 9 if Alex is cleared. The great thing is they all think they're going to start, so they've really been working hard.
Due to the new staff and the overall youth of the team, Turgeon said he is not yet 100 percent certain what offense his team will run, but is sure they will be a man-to-man team on the other side of the ball.
With an almost entirely new staff, and only 5 upperclassmen (2 of which are walk-ons), team leadership is a hot topic heading into the upcoming season. Yet, when asked about any emerging leaders on the team, Turgeon didn't hesitate at all. Sean Mosley, he said. He's really taken on a leadership role.
Maryland's season kicks off next Friday, Oct. 14 with the annual Maryland Madness event. The men's team will hold their media day on Wednesday.